Five Opening NFL Games | Sporting Index
Five Things We Have Learnt From The Opening NFL Games
Reigning Super Bowl champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers got new NFL season underway with a thrilling 31-29 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday. The drama continued over the weekend, as several hyped teams suffered bruising defeats. Week 1 concluded with a heavy win for the Houston Texans against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday night, giving NFL fans a chance to catch their breath. Here are the main things we learned:
Prescott is Back in Business
Cowboys QB Dak Prescott put in a towering performance in his team's narrow defeat to the Bucs on Thursday night. The Dallas signal caller missed most of last season with a fractured ankle, and the team struggled in his absence. He is now back from injury, providing the Cowboys with a huge boost, and he came within a whisker of driving his team to victory against arguably the best defensive front seven in the NFL.
Mike McCarthy was content to let Prescott run the game for the Cowboys, and he responded by throwing for 403 yards, completing 42 of 58 pass attempts. Prescott finished the game with three touchdowns and just one interception. He outplayed the legendary Tom Brady, despite facing a stronger defensive unit, and he was ultimately unlucky to be on the losing team. It proved to be the most viewed opener to an NFL season since 2015, and the highlight was Prescott's duel with Brady. He proved he is an elite QB, and his return gives Dallas a legitimate shot of clinching a wide-open NFC East.
Never Doubt a Tomlin Team
The Buffalo Bills were widely expected to roll over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1. After all, it finished 26-15 to the Bills when the teams met in the postseason last year, and Buffalo appeared to have improved in the offseason. The Bills were third in the betting to win the Super Bowl at the start of the season, behind only the Chiefs and the Bucs, whereas the Steelers were considered outsiders to even reach the playoffs. However, in Week 1 we learned that you should never write off a team coached by Mike Tomlin.
His troops rolled into the Highmark Stadium and made a mockery of their status as 6.5-point underdogs. They delivered a gritty performance to secure a 23-16. It was far from pretty, but Steelers fans will not care. The game was delicately poised in the fourth quarter, with the Steelers trailing 16-13, but a blocked punt put the Steelers 20-10 up. Big Ben Roethlisberger then rolled back the years to deliver two perfect passes, driving his team up the field to land a game-clinching field goal. It was a gut punch to the Bills' Super Bowl hopes, and it showed that the Steelers are genuine contenders this season.
Winston Upstages Rogers in Blowout Victory
Another upset saw the New Orleans Saints wipe the floor with the Green Bay Packers in Week 1. Once again, this was supposed to result in a routine win for the Packers, who went into the game as 4.5-point favourites. The Saints were embarking on a new era after the retirement of talismanic QB Drew Brees, and they lost home field advantage after the game was moved to Jacksonville due to Hurricane Irma. Meanwhile, the Packers had the top-ranked offense last year and looked settled ahead of the new season, so they were expected to cruise to victory.
Yet the Saints clearly did not read the script. Jameis Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner and number one overall pick in 2015, stepped into Brees' shoes and drove his team to a blowout 38-3 win. It was the heaviest victory of Week 1, ahead of the Eagles 32-6 win against the Falcons. The Saints looked well-prepared and fired-up, whereas the Packers were sluggish and outfought. Reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rogers held the franchise hostage all summer, and he played like a man that had spent the summer on vacation. He was hauled off with 11 minutes remaining, perhaps leaving the Green Bay hierarchy lamenting their decision to keep hold of him. The Packers will need to buck their ideas up quickly.
New Offense Gets Russ Cooking
Russell Wilson proved that he can still cook during the Seattle Seahawks' impressive victory against the Indianapolis Colts. The eight-time Pro Bowler rose to the challenge of facing one of the best defensive teams in the league on the road, and he produced a magnificent performance. Seahawks fans have long implored Pete Carroll to "let Russ cook" rather than lean so heavily on the running game, and Wilson showed that he can handle the responsibility in Week 1.
He nearly left Seattle for the Chicago Bears in the summer, but he was ultimately persuaded to stay. Wilson is now playing under a new offensive coordinator in Shane Waldron, who joined from the LA Rams in the offseason, and he seemed to enjoy it. The Seahawks' offense was perfectly balanced, and Wilson played a starring role, finishing 18 of 23 for 254 yards with four touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 152.3 passer rating. He reacted well to everything the Colts threw at him, and his performance suggested that he could enjoy a very strong season.
Mahomes Maintains Perfect September Record
Patrick Mahomes just about managed to maintain his 100% winning record in September. The Kansas City Chiefs QB went into Week 1 with a 10-0 record in September games, but it was plunged into jeopardy when his team trailed the Cleveland Browns 22-9 at half-time on Sunday. Yet Mahomes grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck after the interval, finishing the game 27 of 36 for 337 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, along with five rushes for 18 yards and a touchdown, to lead his team to a nail-biting 33-29 win.
The Browns showed precisely why they are considered Super Bowl contenders. They gave the Chiefs' expensively assembled offensive line a torrid afternoon, squashing any hopes among Kansas City fans that Mahomes would be granted all the time in the world to weave his magic. Yet he still found a way to earn his team a vital win. We also learned that head coach Andy Reid will never quit dreaming up fun trick plays, and we saw why the Chiefs are the favourites to win a second Super Bowl in three years.